Mapping Bans on Transgender Youth Sports Participation
Across the country, state legislatures have introduced bills that would ban transgender youth from participating in K-12 school sports, and in some cases in college as well. This year alone, at least 30 states have introduced this type of legislation.
For more than 12 years, MAP has been tracking laws and policies impact LGBTQ people through our LGBTQ Equality Maps. The maps show that differences in legal equality for LGBTQ people vary widely from state-to-state, and even city to city. MAP is now tracking these harmful laws that ban transgender kids from participating in school sports.
In 2020, amid the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Idaho became the first state to ban transgender youth from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. A federal court quickly blocked enforcement of the Idaho ban, but the case is still active pending further review.
Earlier this month, Mississippi’s legislature nonetheless prioritized and passed a similar law, banning transgender youth from the opportunities and joy of participating in sports. In South Dakota, the state legislature and governor are currently in negotiations about a similar bill.
These bills would mean that a transgender girl, for example, would not be allowed to participate in sports her classmates. By telling transgender girls that they can’t play girls’ sports, or transgender boys that they can’t play boys’ sports, they miss out on this important childhood experience and all the lessons it teaches.
When school officials recognize that a transgender girl is a girl during the school day, but are forced then treat her as if she’s a boy when sports practice starts, it’s deeply harmful and disrupts the school’s policy of treating all kids fairly.
Local schools and state athletic associations are already working to both protect transgender people and ensure a level playing field for everyone in sports — and these policies are working. In contrast, the bills being introduced around the country are blanket bans on transgender youth’s participation in sports, and they are as unnecessary as they are harmful, “solutions” in search of a problem.
From Hawai’i to Montana to Maine, see the range of states that have introduced bills targeting transgender youth, as shown on the map below created by our partners at Freedom for All Americans.
It can be hard to understand what it means to be transgender, especially if you’ve never met a transgender person. And it’s common to have questions at first. But we can all agree that transgender kids should be treated with dignity and respect, just like everyone else.
Young people learn many important life lessons in sports, from confidence and discipline to what it means to be part of — and to belong to — a team. Sports and athletics are an important part of education, and their opportunities are something no child should be denied simply because of who they are.
Our country decided long ago that discrimination is wrong and that everyone should have the same opportunities to succeed in life — and that should include transgender youth. Transgender kids want the opportunity to play sports for the same reason other kids do: to be a part of a team where they feel like they belong. Lawmakers shouldn’t discriminate against kids and ban them from being a part of school team because they’re transgender.